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photography SHINI PARK
In a way, the world begins at 18, non?

Eighteen. A number not commonly spotted in the usual roster of suspects, nor accompanied by some far-fetched superstition that leads 4’s to be scratched off elevators and 13’s to haunt perfectly innocent Fridays; it is perfectly harmless, almost mundane. Little do we realise that 18 is, in fact, a glorious number. A not round but so-very-round figure that bottles in just enough experience, evolution and ‘manhood’ for a product to be deemed ready for the world.

Be it in a gawky, all-arms-and-legs teenager or a dusty bottle of Bordeaux from your parents wedding, 18 of anything is a painstaking process of trial & error, handicraft and refinement. Even if Joe’s braces aren’t coming off until next Springtime. Chanel is a master of said 18, hours of which it takes (depending on material) for one handbag to be produced. Each is subject to meticulous care, from sketch to packaging – every step sanctioned by quality control – after which it is then ready to begin its story. Now multiply this by decades of finesse and perfection.

The skins are preserved in a temperature controlled chamber

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Each is subject to meticulous care, from sketch to packaging – every step sanctioned by quality control – after which it is then ready to begin its story.

A range of hand-made mock-ups are produced before selecting a final prototype nased on proportions and stitching details.

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I’m not going to lie, when I climbed in that van outside Hotel Costes I promised myself to Jason Bourne the crap out of the ride, ready to count the minutes between each turn and memorize particular kinks in the road. Just to be able to be privy to – if not trace back for personal pleasure and some light stalking of – one of fashion’s best-kept secrets: the address to the Chanel handbag factory. Alas, my carb-y lunch had been filling, washed down with a glass of white wine, and by the fourth junction out of La Défense, I was out like a decommissioned traffic light. I might as well have had a dust-bag over my head.

We arose to the sound of soft crackle of gravel as the van pulled into the entrance to a handsome building covered in matte-black tiles that resembled the iconic Chanel quilting. The interiors airy corridors in calming tones bouncing off diffused natural light. Workers and craftsmen weaved past us, practically gliding, talking in gentle tones no louder than the soft, diligent whirring of the machines. A cart with a small stack of lemon-yellow leather hide wheeled by – perhaps a limited-edition 11.12 in its infancy – as I made a bee-line to the table where the quilting was being stitched. Room after another, I dashed, mid-sentence – to a corner where the logo hardware was being set, to the station where seams were being hammered… At one point I’m certain I caught my poor guide glancing at a spool of bag chain, no doubt contemplating a makeshift leash.

The iconic 2.55 throughout the ages

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Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.
Coco Chanel

Not one bag is the same, multiply that by six collections produced each year under Karl’s boundless design direction, then add a challenge of technical variation for each. Heck, throw a differentiation equation in there for good measure, and that should adequately sum up the level of expertise exercised in the factory. The same building houses also nearly 3,000 bags in archive, forming a rich library of inspiration for designers and craftsmen but also a thick resume of Coco Chanel-class problem-solving skills. “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” The factory certainly was all doors, all solutions.

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Many thanks to Chanel UK for the rare peek behind the scenes.


How a Chanel 2.55 is made
photography courtesy of CHANEL
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The aged calfskin is quilted by needlework according to a lozenge “diamond” pattern.

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A template is placed onto the leather and cuts the different components, which are then individually lined with thin foam.

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The emblematic double C is sewn onto the leather, appearing underneath the flap inside the bag.

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The two bags are placed one within the other to create a single bag and then assembled; this is the “bag in the bag” technique.

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Eyelets are inserted on the bag for a chain made of flat links in metal known as the “jewellery chain”. A rectangular turn-lock clasp, called the “Mademoiselle lock”, is positioned.

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The bag is complete and the finishing touches are checked before it is packed and sent to the CHANEL boutiques.


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31 Comments

  1. […] post Read between the stitches appeared first on PARK & […]

  2. La Bijoux Bella | by mia

    Beautifully written about the Historic Chanel handbags . . . Absolutely beautiful! :)

    La Bijoux Bella | by mia

  3. Really interesting! I love to know about production processes.

    Don’t miss today on the blog my Chic workout outfit…wearing for the first time all the garments and a pair of stunning trainers!! ;)
    .
    .
    ❤ Kisses from http://www.withorwithoutshoes.com

  4. This was incredible to read! Thank you for the BTS. 18 hours?! Definitely indicates why they are so coveted, sustainable and gorgeous!

  5. great article! love it!

    xo
    http://www.cherry-mag.com

  6. great article! love it!

    xo
    http://www.cherry-mag.com

  7. Great post! Love reading and finding out stuff like this x
    http://my–socalledlife.blogspot.com.au/

  8. I can’t even… I have no words… I just… Let me try one more time..
    I cannot believe you had the opportunity to go see how a Chanel bag is made – that must have seriously been an amazing experience! I have to admit I am incredibly envious but I am so excited that you get to share this with us – How amazing! I have a whole new level of appreciation for my bag.

    x
    Shloka
    thesilksneaker.com

  9. Thank you for this insightful post! What an amazing process from start to finish.

  10. […] post Read between the stitches appeared first on PARK & […]

  11. So beautiful! No fast fashion will ever beat real craftsmanship.

    http://www.lips-brothers.com
    http://www.lips-brothers.com

  12. Amazing post! thanks for sharing

    thedaydreamings.blogspot.com

  13. Such an incredible process x

    http://jessicawoods.fr/blog/

  14. Wait, they don’t come falling from the sky?
    This was a beautiful read about Chanel and the production process. More of this please!
    http://theavantguardian.com

  15. what is this sorcery. so interesting, i love watching bags and clothes being made.

    xx Faiyaz
    http://www.fixatedf.com

  16. Nice post dear!
    http://www.evdaily.blogspot.com

  17. How delightful!

    http://www.myhappynook.com

  18. This is such an amazing post! I didn’t know that the factory’s location is a secret hahaha! We should take our bags more seriously ;D

  19. You always score the juiciest insider scoop with the best names in the fashion industry!
    Really enjoyed your post on the breakdown and intimate process with Chanel. xx

    Cynthia
    http://www.pinchofchic.com

  20. I’m obsessed by Coco Chanel and her story, so this post made me super happy! Amazing as always.

    Daniela

  21. […] * How a Chanel Bag is Made [Park & Cube] […]

  22. Jenny Kakoudakis

    Ok, so everyone is commenting on the Chanel bags, I have to ask: how did you find Hotel Costes? I am not going to ask if it’s what it used to be like, I don’t think it’s changed much over the years and the crowd it gets in the bar must still be delightfully fashionable. You should try their CDs (downloadable on iTunes of course). Lounge music at its best.

    xo
    Jenny
    http://www.seasonsincolour.com

  23. Ah I wish we stayed in Costes! The restaurant is amazing though, the chilli seabass thai dish is the reason I go back to Paris… I’m going to have to make it a point to stay there at one point!

  24. I love your pictures! Great post ;)

    http://www.themostsisters.com

  25. This was incredible to read! Thank you for the BTS. 18 hours?! Definitely indicates why they are so coveted, sustainable and gorgeous!

  26. The article was really good, I love ya really a discussion handbag .. i love it …

  27. The article was really good, I love ya really a discussion handbag ..

  28. Thank you for this little peak inside Chanel ! Something most of the mortals won’t be able to witness live, we can at least see that through your experience. Thank you for sharing, I loved learning more about this iconic brand !

  29. […] the design room, I make a bee-line to a wall tiled with Karl’s sketches (I tend to dart off the leash at Chanel factories…), feeling a little naughty as I glean hints of the upcoming Metiers D’Art collection. The […]

  30. […] the design room, I make a bee-line to a wall tiled with Karl’s sketches (I tend to dart off the leash at Chanel factories…), feeling a little naughty as I glean hints of the upcoming Metiers D’Art collection. The […]

  31. […] the design room, I make a bee-line to a wall tiled with Karl’s sketches (I tend to dart off the leash at Chanel factories…), feeling a little naughty as I glean hints of the upcoming Metiers D’Art collection. The […]